Review – The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark
I happened to come across The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark by pure chance. While searching for a new game to play before some of the bigger titles arriving this summer, I noticed a retro-styled point-and-click adventure with a silly yet interesting premise. I had no idea this was actually a sequel to the game The Darkside Detective, as I’d never heard of that game before either. I decided to give it a shot and wow am I glad I did!
The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark takes place right after the events of the first game. Detective Francis McQueen is on the trail of his former partner, Officer Dooley, who went missing after being sucked into a strange portal. Or something along those lines. Like I said, I have yet to play the first. However, this is just the very first case you’re presented with. I was pleased to discover that The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark has six different cases to investigate, each taking about one to two hours to complete. It was a lot meatier than I was expecting, but that’s not a bad thing by any means.
Each of the six cases start off with some mysterious premise that hint at something sinister afoot. However, in Twin Lakes nothing is as it seems. There’s always something going on behind the scenes (or in another dimension), which makes the end reveal something completely different than what you first thought. Many of the cases make references to events that happened in the previous game, but even though I haven’t played it yet, I still caught the gist of what transpired before.
What makes The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark so remarkable is its writing. Well, there are definitely other contributing factors, but I’ll get to those in due time. This game has some of the most hilarious writing I’ve seen in a while. It has the same level of satire as what I encountered in Sam & Max Save the World, but with an element of meta humor and fourth wall breaking similar to what I saw in Happiness & Cyanide – Freakpocalypse. However, the blending of these two elements are beautifully done and don’t wear out their welcome like Freakpocalypse had a tendency to do at times.
Along the way you’ll meet lots of crazy characters, some old and some new. Many of them are plays on pop culture or literary icons, but there are still plenty that have their own identities. You’ll not only encounter the residents within Twin Lakes (an obvious Twin Peaks nod), but you’ll also encounter paranormal entities from the Darkside. Despite being from a seemingly evil dimension, many of these creatures are more complex than you would first think. When you’re being pursued by a giant otherworldly monster that just wants to be friends, hilarity ensues.
In terms of gameplay, The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark is your standard point-and-click adventure, harkening back to the times of Sierra and LucasArts games from the 80s and 90s. Your characters won’t move around, so instead you’ll have to rely on moving your cursor across static images. You’ll also have an overhead UI in which you’ll be able to interact with and combine items. Thankfully, the cursor moves smoothly and at a pretty decent speed. There’s nothing worse than having to play a point-and-click game on a console with an erratic or painfully slow cursor.
There are a few obstacle-centered puzzles sprinkled within The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark, but they’re all on the easy side. In fact, most of the story progression based puzzles are fairly easy to figure out. There were only a couple moments where I was stumped for a bit, but only for a short while. The answers are there for you to find as long as you investigate everything and talk to everyone. None of the solutions felt out of place or overly obscure. The developers at Spooky Doorway have managed to ride the line of challenging, sensical, and entertaining very well.
Another area where The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark excels is in its art department. I know this game has an 8-bit aesthetic, but it’s still gorgeous. You can tell a lot of painstaking love and care went into the crafting of each character model and environment. Despite being displayed in pixel art form, there’s a shocking amount of detail within every facet of the game. Every screen in each location not only has tons to look at, but there’s a huge amount of variety in the settings. I never once got bored with a chapter because I felt like each one had their own unique feel and charm.
The same can be said for the character designs as well. Each character has a distinct look and surprisingly convincing body language. There’s no voice acting in the game, so all of the emotions have to be conveyed through a combination of character animations and musical score. The soundtrack is very well done, even if there’s not a huge list of songs to listen to. What’s there fits the tone of each area and doesn’t grate on your nerves even after listening to it for a while. Most of the tracks sound either mildly foreboding or reminiscent of other well known tunes. It’s just enough to get across the idea and mood they are striving for.
I only can’t believe that I’m only learning about the existence of these games now. It was only by a most serendipitous happenstance that I even stumbled across The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark. I might have known about it until now, but I’m officially a fan. For anyone that likes retro-styled point-and-click adventure games, you must give The Darkside Detective games a try. I myself am about to go back and play the first game to see where all the magic started.
Even though it features an 8-bit art style, the character designs each background have an amazing amount of detail and variety.
It’s your basic retro-styled point-and-click adventure game, which mean all you’ll be doing is moving the cursor around. However, the cursor moves smoothly and at a decent speed. Most of the puzzles aren’t overly obscure either.
There’s no voice acting, but the soundtrack is pretty good all around.
Fun Factor: 9.0
The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark is a hilariously fun time the whole way through. It’s chock-full of quirky characters, crazy situations, and self-aware humor. This game is a must for fans of point-and-click adventures.
Final Verdict: 9.0
The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark is available now on PC, Stadia, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PS4, PS5, and Switch.
Reviewed on PS5.
A copy of The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark was provided by the publisher.